Avoid the Void – First Impressions

Avoid the Void is a fast-paced, chaotic card game for players of all skill levels

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Game designer Tim Mierzejewski brought a prototype of his new game, Avoid the Void, to Friendly Fire Game Center for Board Game Night, Wednesday, and gamers who sat down to experience the chaotic, fast-paced card game had nothing but great things to say.

Avoid the Void is published by Geek Fever Games.

The game can be played by up to seven people, each assuming the role of a space ship piloted by a different alien race. Each race has a different ability that can be used as the ships navigate through various space sector tiles, avoiding black holes, the “voids,” to be the last one standing.

Players can interact with the board or each other by playing cards that give them more resources, change the board or force opponents to discard their cards.

Players lose the game by either being forced off the board by directional arrows, becoming stuck on a void space, or discarding their entire hand. They still have a chance to influence the game, though, as downed players become “void beasts” and gain new abilities each turn that give them the power to mess with the players still in the game.

Mierzejewski said this elimination mechanic was a way to keep losing players still involved in the game. Other mechanics were toyed with including a “Bum Town” and a “zombies-type afterlife,” but neither was found to be as fun as the void beasts.

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“Player elimination can be pretty boring for people,” he said. “The void beasts works well with being simple to comprehend, and the escalation works that, even if you’re out early, that could be even better for your engagement.”

This mechanic also puts extra pressure on an already fast game clock, meaning that running Avoid the Void won’t take more than a half hour of your time; perfect for more casual players.

Avoid the Void began development about ten years ago, without the space theme. Mierzejewski said he and his partners planned the game to have a chaotic feel and interesting spatial mechanic. Pieces move across the randomly placed sector tiles along predetermined arrow paths, but they can easily be moved or disrupted by playing cards.

Mierzejewski has designed five other games, in many different genres, but he likes to keep the themes light and the strategies relatively easy to grasp for all players and “won’t take two hours to play.”

Players at Friendly Fire enjoyed the chaotic aspect of the game and it’s more light-hearted appeal.

Kevin Jun said he liked the “equal randomness” of the game; players had the same board to work with and success was dependent on what was drawn from a communal deck.

Other players liked the fact that it was almost impossible to “shut down” another player, a common factor in other strategy card games.

“I like that, when you are out, you get to do something,” Kyle Rosebush said. He also loved the chaotic aspect of the game, where the entire board could shift after one turn.

“I love to play chaotically,” he said. “I like to have fun, screw everyone over, even if I don’t win.”

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The game has lots of replay value, with seven different alien races with different powers, and a board that changes each game. The game you play as a Queque (pronounced “cake”) will go much differently than as a Krisk. A more advanced version of the game than the demo played Wednesday also features ship improvement cards and a Monopoly-esque tribute mechanic for landing on a sector occupied by another player.

The game received favorable reviews when shown at PAX East and the Connecticut Festival of Indie games, Mierzejewski said, especially for the void beast mechanic. He said he loved seeing the different card combinations playtesters came up with.

“Seeing so many different minds take the cards in different directions, it’s been wonderful having probably above 100 people in the last two weeks just see the game and getting to see so many brains parsing things in different ways,” he said.

The game is still in prototype and has another week in its Kickstarter campaign, which ends May 12. A backing of $25 gets the full game, which will have updated art and pieces. Greater contributions will get limited editions of the art and a chance to add a new alien race to the game.

It’s hard to categorized Avoid the Void. It’s deceptively simple board movement mechanics pair nicely with the “afterlife” affect similar to games like Smallworld and the card management and combination potential of Magic: The Gathering. My favorite moment of the game was when I tried to wipe out the rest of the players with a ridiculous combo. I ended up screwing myself out of the game, but it was fun while it lasted, and I got to come back as a void beast.

For casual gamers, or those looking for a unique challenge, Avoid the Void is for you.

Another of Mierzejewski’s recently crowdfunded projects, Awesome Bots, also by Geek Fever Games, is currently available at Friendly Fire. Dozens of other great board games can also be found on the shelves, and tested out on Board Game Night every Wednesday.

 

Nicholas Shigo can be reached at nicholas.shigo@gmail.com or on Twitter @NicholasShigo.